Friday, February 7, 2014

Running for Committee in 1964--Almost as Big as The Beatles!

The club's archives include an interesting collection of campaign paraphernalia from, of all things, Allegheny County Democratic Committee races.

The position clearly carried more weight back in the salad days of patronage and ward chair power. Many committee races involved more than one candidate (a rare occurrence nowadays, for better or worse), and in a few primary elections the club ran an extensive slate of endorsed candidates in a bid to take over the ward.

According to a 1964 Pittsburgh Press article about the club, "Dr. Eugene Sucov, chairman of the 14th Ward Independent Democrats, announced his group will seek to elect 37 members of the Ward Democratic Committee." One of those committee hopefuls was current club board member Nat Hershey. (Here's a headshot of Nat in 1964.)

Also seeking a committee seat was another club founder, Celeste Behrend, who died in 2009-- Obituary: Celeste S. Behrend / Liberal political activist in city's 14th Ward.

Posted below are the entire results of the 1964 14th Ward committee elections, along with a list of club-backed candidates and a map of the districts at that time (there were 32, compared to to 41 today.) Unfortunately, many of the club's candidates lost that year, including Nat, Carol Berger and Marcum Schneider. However, Celeste prevailed, and of course, Nat and other club candidates would be elected to the committee in subsequent elections.

Note the number of contested races, some with three or more candidates, as well as some of the razor-thin margins of victory. For example, in District 7, in the heart of Point Breeze, Thomas Mahon beat Thomas Sheehy by one vote, 152 to 151, with the club's candidate, Richard Rieker, taking another 82 votes. Or how about 546 votes cast for four male candidates in District 15, near Blue Slide Park? That's a huge number compared to contemporary turnouts.

Not a bad level of interest for an unpaid, under-appreciated, bottom-rung position on the Democratic Party ladder!

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